You've surely heard about a little game called Mighty Switch Force. Nate already did a review on its original 3DS version back in January. The HD upgraded Wii U version titled Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition has been making some waves lately and just a little while ago we were treated to a sequel announcement as well having the game on sale in the Wii U eShop.
I figured it was high time for me to check this game out so I gave it a try to see if the upgraded edition was really worth the money. I had my reservations, but the game did indeed deliver on its promises. Read on to hear why this game might just be the best deal in the eShop right now!
The core idea of this puzzle-platformer is so simple that it almost sounds ridiculous, but don't let that fool you! The merits of this game do not lie in its story or depth. You step into the tiny boots of a female cyborg cop Patricia Wagon, whose only duty appears to be apprehending the same five bandit babes level after level. Aside from the usual running, jumping, and shooting you can switch certain blocks in and out of existence with a click of a button. The blocks are used for everything from solving puzzles to smashing enemies. This simple but ingenious mechanic is what most of the games puzzles and platforming action are based around. Sometimes games based around a single mechanic like this can really be the most fun. Don't believe me? Check out a game called Portal and then we can talk.
What's new in the Wii U version?Even though the Hyper Drive Edition obviously does not have the ability to display the game's visuals in 3D, the HD upgraded graphics are simply beautiful. Everything from the backdrops to the assets has been completely redrawn to make use of the Wii U's HD capabilities. The game also supports off-TV play, which is a nice feature to have. The real difference between the releases though, is the addition of new "hyper drive" levels, which are remixed versions of existing levels. While these levels are a much needed extension to the game, it is a shame that they are not playable from the start. If you've already played the 3DS version, you'll have to do it all over again.
Gameplay and designEven with the added content you are treated to a short but intense gaming experience. The game borrows its gameplay elements chiefly from the classic platformers of the 80's and 90's. The good people of WayForward Technologies have certainly done their homework on the roots of such franchises as Mega Man and Super Mario. Each stage also comes with a par time which challenges you to make a near perfect run of the level. This adds some much needed length and extra challenge to the otherwise short game.The challenge is gradually increased as you progress through the levels. New ways of using the block switching ability are introduced and later combined in devious puzzles that test your wits and reaction time to the extreme. The controls are very tight and responsive as is the game design. In the style of such classics as Mega Man X, the game doesn't teach its mechanics to you by making you read tons of text or by having the characters explain them to you. Rather, you are lead to discover them on your own as you naturally progress through the levels. This kind of game design is unfortunately a dying breed as egoraptor explains in his hilarious rant in Sequelitis.
Visuals and soundThe two dimensional HD visuals of the Wii U version are top notch and a great step up from the 3DS version. Even though one of the most fun aspects of this fast paced game is to beat a par time set for each stage, one can't help stopping occasionally to marvel at the eye candy, particularly the little details in the character animations, which are now much more defined. I found that the death animation for Patricia to be an indirect reference to the death animation of Samus in Super Metroid, where her armor is blown off, revealing a black bikini underneath. Now how about that!The music was created by video game remix legend Jake Kaufman, better known as virt. Most remember him best from his masterful heavy metal covers of various Zelda and Metroid tunes that sometimes spanned over 20 minutes in length. This time he's chosen to go for a more traditional approach, crafting catchy fast paced bubble gum pop pieces that borrow their ideas mostly from retro games, but end up sounding more like a mixture of J-pop and dubstep. That might not sound like a winning combination, but it works surprisingly well! The soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.
The voice acting is the most over the top you'll ever hear. The actor who plays Patricia Wagon has by some miracle of nature managed to conjure up the most cutesiest, girliest voice imaginable for her character. At first it's unsettling, then annoying, then hilarious. Some may find it awful, but I can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it.
ContentThe game includes all the levels of the original 3DS game as well as the DLC levels that were made available later. As a bonus, completing the stages under the par time unlocks their Hyper Drive versions with even tighter par times. The only negative aspect about the game is its short length.
The par times are a classic way of increasing length to a game by upping the challenge. A trick the platformers of the past did very well. It might feel a little cheap nowadays, but it does add genuine replay value to the game and thanks to the great controls the challenge always feels fair.
On the other hand I fail to understand why WayForward chose not to include any online functionality outside the basic Miiverse page. A game that's so heavily based around beating the levels as fast as possible would surely have benefited from an online leader board. Naturally you can still post your records on Miiverse, but seeing how other eShop games like Nano Assault Neo have made great use of leader boards really makes one wish WayForward had gone through the extra effort.
All in all, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is a fabulous little title filled with fun, action packed, classic platformer goodness. The only reason a Wii U owned should skip this one is if you already own the original 3DS titleand don't miss the extra challenge. With little additions like online functionality the game would get a perfect ten, but as it is its only getting a nine out of ten score.